In 1992, she set up her own business as an investment advisor, and in 1993 Dr. Eva Lemke founded the broker pool "Apella" together with Guntram Schloss. As a member of the Management Board, she was responsible for personnel, commission accounting and marketing. She recently moved to the Supervisory Board. Fondsfrau Anke Dembowski talks to her about the possibilities of becoming a self-employed investment advisor, even today. In a different interview she talks about her work as a board member at Apella AG.

Apella AG is based in Neubrandenburg, which is not exactly considered the hub of the financial world. Why did you choose Neubrandenburg as the headquarters for your broker pool?
Neubrandenburg war unser Wohn- und Arbeitsort in unserem 1. Leben. Als dann die Apella AG gegründet war, überlegten wir kurz, den Firmensitz in die nächst größere Stadt, nach Rostock, zu verlegen. Als wir dann wuchsen, stand auch mal Berlin zur Debatte, aber beides zerschlug sich. Unsere Mitarbeiter, die wir mühsam aufgebaut hatten, wollten nämlich nicht umziehen, und so wäre die Veränderung des Firmensitzes mit dem Aufbau neuer Mitarbeiter zu riskant. Als dann die technischen Möglichkeiten der Kommunikation (vor allem Internet) immer besser wurden, war der Wunsch, in eine Großstadt zu gehen, nicht mehr so stark. Man darf auch nicht vergessen, dass in Neubrandenburg das Lohn-Niveau im Vergleich zu Hamburg oder München sehr günstig ist. Bei mittlerweile 50 Mitarbeitern ist das auch ein Aspekt.

In your opinion, how well suited is the financial industry for career changers who want to start their own business as an investment advisor?
The financial industry has developed enormously. I believe that it is becoming increasingly difficult to gain a foothold here as a career changer. In any case, a solid commercial education or a degree is necessary, and the "expert knowledge" has already had to be proven for several years for the issuance of a business license.
The customers have also evolved, are often well informed and some are already on their own with ETFs. Nevertheless, I believe that it is still possible to start your own business as an advisor. If you don't have adequate training beforehand, you can perhaps complete it in parallel during the start-up period.

From your observation, how can working as an IFA be combined with raising children?
This works quite well, because the exact working hours and also the workload can be arranged by everyone individually.

There are many female bank advisors who are flirting with starting their own business as an IFA. What advice do you have for these women?
I started my own business at that time to secure my existence. It's great that as a realtor you can decide for yourself how much and when you work. If someone wants to become self-employed, it is definitely advisable to create a business plan or concept in advance. For this purpose, one considers above all with which products and services one wants to earn money and which income can be achieved with them. My recommendation is to go into self-employment only with your own capital, otherwise you will easily come under pressure and may not remain so free in your recommendations. It is also important to decide which pool to work with.

What criteria, then, should IFAs use to select a broker pool?
For me, the issue of independence has played a major role. That's why I think it's important to look at pools to see how independently you can work with them, how independent the pool is. For example, Apella has not taken on any outside capital, is fully equity-financed, and there is no product provider involved. What range of products and services a pool has also plays a role in the broker's business focus. At Apella, for example, we have evolved from a pure fund pool to a bancassurance pool. We now offer insurance, financing and investments (funds and real estate), and work with a total of around 800 product companies. With Apella Wertpapier-Service GmbH we have a "liability umbrella", here we also offer our own asset management products. We have our own insurance underwriter and a consulting company for company pension schemes. Our independent IT secures, among other things, our own online broker management program. Apella is therefore independent all around.
Besides that, someone who wants to start their own business can also check the pools to that effect: Do they offer comparison calculators? What functionalities do they offer that I need for administration? What training opportunities are offered? What are the costs of working with the pool?
Very important to me seem to be the questions of how much integrity the people on the management team have and how fairly they treat the affiliated brokers.

In fact, we hear in the market that the investment advisors are treated very fairly at Apella. In addition, you seem to have a very family-like atmosphere. One doesn't get the feeling that people are fighting with sharp elbows. Do you have any idea why that might be?
Yes, we were often told that, but we didn't notice it ourselves. We are just the way we are, and we didn't have to play a role. Right from the start, we treated the consultants as partners and as equals. After all, cooperation must be mutually beneficial. Apella was the first pool to include a fiduciary clause in its contracts with brokers. This assures the consultants that Apella acts exclusively as a trustee in the administration of the customers and their contracts. Brokerage claims always remain with the broker. If we should fail or a broker leaves, she will of course receive her own portfolio. In addition, we also pay portfolio maintenance commissions if an IFA returns its license - after all, it is not our portfolio. There's no legislation to the contrary that would prohibit that, either. But some broker pools see it differently and then no longer pay out commissions.

Do you have one or two good pieces of advice for women who want to make their way in the financial industry as investment advisors?
After all, as a broker, you're constantly evolving professionally. It's okay to start as a sole proprietor. If you are successful and enjoy your work, you will soon need employees. Then it makes sense to give your own company a reasonable legal framework, e.g. to establish a limited liability company.

Is the job as an investment advisor a one-way street that you can't get out of?
If you draw attention to yourself as a broker, you also go into marketing more strongly. Then perhaps pools or product providers will also take notice of you. As Apella management, for example, we have always approached brokers to ask if they would like to work with us at Apella AG. This has proved very successful, because they know how the broker business works. In this respect, even as a broker, you have access to a wide range of developments. Working in this industry always opens up new perspectives. You yourself come from an investment consulting background and are now a financial journalist, managing the fund women with your colleagues.

Haha, yes! Thanks for the great tips for those who want to start their own business as a broker!

Profilbild von Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski

Anke Dembowski is a financial journalist and author of various investment fund-related and other financial books. She is also a co-founder of the "Fondsfrauen" network.

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